Continuing with the series on identity…
In Part 1 – A little Backround, I outlined various factors in my adolescence that I believe helped to further erode the sin-distorted sense of identity that I was born with. This will be discussed later, but I should point out here that though my particular troubles were primarily in the form of insecurity, that is not the only form that a struggling identity takes. “Confident” people tend to deal with nagging questions of worth by wrapping their entire identity up in the things they are good at—things such as intelligence, ambition, athleticism, charisma, or appearance. Even competence itself can become the crutch a person supports their identity on—if that person begins to believe their competency is what makes them who they are, what makes them worthwhile.
On that note, we return to the story of a young woman who didn’t feel particularly competent at all.
Having no idea who I was left me wishing I was everyone else, or at least the parts of everyone else that I admired. As early as age 12, I was seeking escape in drugs and alcohol. With the passing of a few years such things became more accessible to me—so much so that by the time I graduated from high school, there were very few drugs I had not at least experimented with. Substance abuse was the priority weekend activity that all other activities were subordinate to. It was fun, distracting, and (most of all) it temporarily freed me from my reservations and insecurities. I reveled in the novelty and liberty of being the funny, witty, confident one—until I was sober again anyway.
I did get a job at a movie theater (where my direct supervisor thought it was funny when I smoked marijuana in the bathroom on breaks). I could have used the new income to alleviate myself of the embarrassment of financial disadvantage, but instead, I spent most of my money on drug and drink. I often skipped classes or showed up to them high. I went from a 4.0 my freshman year to barely graduating—and even that I owe to the compassion of one teacher.
I routinely exposed myself to desperate people, self-destructive behaviors, and even life threatening activities. Remarkably, I came through that time relatively unscathed. My choices certainly took a toll—I still have the scars to prove it. But I was also spared some very burdensome consequences that, in all probability, ought to have resulted from my actions. And I believe this was part of the greater miracle that was about to occur.
The summer after my high school graduation, things changed. Through a series of family circumstances that included my father surrendering his life to Christ and being delivered from alcoholism, God brought me to a place where he could personally and dramatically reveal himself to me.
For the first time ever I understood that there was a personal God with a very real standard of holiness. I understood that I was a sinner, that I needed forgiveness, and that I was forgiven because of Jesus’ work on the cross on my behalf. I was reconciled to God and would one day be with him in heaven. I still find it difficult to put into words the difference that made in my life. I was walking on air. To go from being condemned and horrified at the thought of the afterlife to being sweetly and confidently assured of God’s good eternal plans for me was unbearably wonderful. Still is.
I knew I had found what I needed, the greatest longing of my soul. This resulted in an immediate change in lifestyle. I abandoned the party scene entirely, and began to voraciously consume the Bible.
Not everything changed though…
Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it.